Road transport & safety matters: Special Investigating Unit and Automobile Association Briefings

This premium content has been made freely available


28 May 2008
Chairperson: Mr J Cronin (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

Members met with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Automobile Association (AA) to hear their reports on general issues around road transport. The SIU presentation outlined the key focus areas, achievements and challenges, noting that their main involvement lay in investigations into the driving licences and the registration of stolen vehicles on e-Natis. Members asked whether there was any occasion where claims had been made where people had legally applied for licences, but were undermined by the system with the effect that their licences were recorded as invalid. Members also asked whether, in the process of identifying the many challenges in e-Natis and credit card licences, the SIU went to the source of the challenges, and also whether there was compliance with the tenders. The Chairperson felt that it was worrying that there was no consultation between the Department and the SIU, and said there needed to be a dynamic connection between the SIU and the Department.

The AA presentation outlined the challenges faced when it came to driver testing standards, vehicle standards and also the challenges faced when it came to vehicle crime and the enforcement of the road safety strategy. Various suggestions were made around the possibility of having a Ministry for Road Safety, better policies, including the setting of specific targets to reduce fatalities, measurement of road safety, better vehicle standards and interventions to ensure that they were met, training, and conditions for the license tests, and measures to reduce hijacking by re-designing road systems.

The Chairperson noted that the AA presentation was that they were very tactful and helpful. He noted that the statistics provided by the AA, were of great concern and could be a cause for debate. He also said that there were a number of urgent issues such as the use of roll cages for buses and regulating drivers licensing testing, which the Committee should consider.

Meeting report

Special Investigating Unit (SIU) Briefing on road matters.
Mr Willie Hofmeyr, Head: Special Investigating Unit, Mr Faiek Davids, Deputy Head: Special Investigating Unit, and Ms Claudia O'Brien, National Investigation Co-ordinator: SIU, gave a presentation outlining the key focus areas, achievements and challenges of the SIU. It was noted that the key focus areas for the SIU were the investigations into the driving licences and the registration of stolen vehicles on the e-Natis. There was a critical demand for licences and the effect of illegally issued licences included incompetent and dangerous driving, and loss of confidence in the South African licences abroad. Therefore the overall objective was to build an effective and credible licensing process. The SIU had managed to make a significant impact into the eradication of corrupt and incompetent officials from the system, and had recommended systemic improvements aimed at promoting a sustainable and effective licensing system. There were still significant challenges, which included the eradication of illegal licences from the system, and the fast tracking of legislative amendments. 

Mr B Mashile (ANC) asked whether there had been any instances where it was discovered that people had legally applied for licences, but were undermined by the administration that showed that their licences were fraudulent.

Mr S Farrow (DA) asked whether, in the process of identifying the many challenges in e-Natis and credit card licences, the SIU went to the source of the challenges, and whether there was compliance in the tenders.

Ms B Thompson (ANC) asked whether the presentation was saying that there was significant lack of capacity within the traffic departments, or that the main cause of the challenges was the corruption being practiced by some of the traffic officials. She asked for clarity whether each Department allocated a budget each year for the SIU, or whether the SIU only received a budget when there was a need for the work to be done. She also asked for clarity whether there was a duplication of functions between the SIU and the South African Police Services (SAPS).  The SIU should comment on whether it planned on spreading to other provinces such as KwaZulu Natal.

Ms N Khunou (ANC) asked whether there were any monitoring mechanisms in place in order to prevent the repetition of fraudulent activities.

Mr M Moss (ANC) asked why there were no competency tests attached to the conversion of the licences.

Mr Hofmeyr noted, as a general comment, that there 83 people in the field, and the SIU capacity needed to be used efficiently, and it would take some time before the SIU could state that all issues had been dealt with. Other role players needed to come in and address issues pertaining to the monitoring. However, many of the role players did not have the legal capacity to do so at present. The SIU believed that it was dealing with organised crime and the SIU ensured that all criminal elements were being closed down.

Mr Davids added that the SIU was set up to deal with forensic audit and investigations, and its mandate was not to check the functionality and effectiveness of the e-Natis licence and registration system. With the credit card licencing, the process of issuing the licence was flawed, and the SIU was mandated to focus on the flawed system. In relation to the invalidity of licences, the SIU was unable to deal with the matter, as there was no adequate benchmark.  The licencing process had a good system in the lead-up to the issuing of licences. Given the high rate of licencing fraud, there was also a need to look closely into the foreign licences, and perhaps to insist that there needed to be an in-built competency process. In respect of the monitoring process, the SIU needed to go back and see whether the recommendations had been followed through, and the Committee should also consider receiving follow up reports from the SIU.

Ms O'Brien said that there were cases that the SIU found in which many licences were ruled invalid as a result of administrative infraction. The SIU had found in many cases that there were many technical infractions.

Mr Hofmeyr said that, in regard to benchmarking and comparisons, the SIU engaged with some research organisations in compiling a survey on corruption in different areas. It should be noted that the indicators had come down but it would take a while before the incidences of corruption came down to an acceptable level.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked for clarity on the key focus areas such as stolen vehicles and fraudulent licenses, and asked whether the SIU dealt with privately owned vehicles.

Mr Mashile appreciated the admission that there were people who had followed the correct procedures only to have their licences undermined by the administrative processes. He asked that the SIU should comment whether their mandate and terms of reference could be improved in order to serve the country effectively.  The SIU should also comment on whether it was adequately financed to continue its investigations. Fraud was a major problem, and therefore he asked for comment on how proactive SIU was in ensuring that the proper security agencies were adequately informed in combating fraud.

The Chairperson said that the Committee did not have the technical skills to introduce legislation, but had an important role to play in driving the legislative process.  The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) should comment on how some of the issues would be dealt with, and the way forward. The Committee was also needing to look at municipal entities and recognised that public transport needed to be centralised to the municipal sphere.

Mr Thabo Tsholetsane, Acting CEO, RTMC,
agreed that certain powers needed to be given to the inspectorate in order for them to be effective and there were drafts being developed. On the blacklisting of officials, the RTMC believed that those sections that were not yet enacted in the National Road Traffic Act should be enacted.

The Chairperson asked whether the inspectorate as envisaged in the Act would be an RTMC function or a separate function

Mr Tsholetsane replied that in terms of the Act the inspectorate reported to the Minister, and the powers that were given in the legislation were monitoring powers and not executive powers. If the powers were executive, then they should remain with the Minister. Therefore if those sections of the Road Traffic Act were to be enforced, then there would be accountability.

Mr John Motsatsing, Standards and Regulation Directorate: Department of Transport,
said that there was an agreement to give the inspectorate more powers within the provinces, and the Department just needed to implement the provisions. The Department had never unpacked the recommendations made by the SIU, and that was unfortunate. If there was more consultation between the Department and SIU then the SIU would be informed about the progress that had been made.

The Chairperson said that it was worrying that there was no consultation between the Department and the SIU. It seemed as if one programme and the other were not connecting effectively. There needed to be a dynamic connection between the SIU and the Department so that parliament was capacitated with the correct information. The Committee was very impressed with the inputs and was ready and willing to assist in making the necessary amendments that would give the SIU more power. The Committee would also flag the issue with the Director General.

Mr Motsatsing added that the Department was piloting a best practice model, which would look into the acquisition of a learner’s and driver’s licence. The Department was busy regulating the entire driving school industry with regards to the setting of standards that would have to be complied with before someone acquired a driver’s licence.

Mr Tsholetsane added that on the credit card licencing, there were cloned credit card licences, however they were easily identifiable and many people had been caught.

Mr Hofmeyr noted that the SIU was in dynamic contact with the Department on a daily basis and the SIU would ensure that the matters pertaining to lack of communication would be rectified. In respect of the earlier question on the budget, he indicated that the SIU usually signed a three year agreement with the Department, and the SIU had to accept that they had to deliver. There was a large demand for the services provided by the SIU and the organisation was battling to recruit individuals with the necessary capacity. Many Departments had tried to set up investigation capacity and had been unsuccessful.

Mr Hofmeyr added that the SIU had engaged with the Road Accident Fund (RAF) but there had been no progression on some of the issues. In relation to KwaZulu Natal, the SIU did work with the Department in identifying the hotspots and finding the way forward. The SIU was not a very active investigative body, but since it was very focused it had managed to make an impact on the regulatory environment. The SIU was merely an ad-hoc organisation, and the role of the organisation was up for debate. The SIU also perceived the taxi recapitalisation process as one where potential problems may arise. There were some dangers on decentralising public transport, and the SIU felt that the national government needed to ensure compliance and take stern action when there was no compliance.

Mr Davids replied that the focus on the registration of stolen vehicles was very broad, and would include all stolen vehicles that were legalised in the system. The SIU did not have the capacity or the legal mandate of focus to look into the matter.

Automobile Association (AA): State of Motoring and Road Safety Presentation
Mr Rob Handfield-Jones, Head of Public Affairs, AA, gave a presentation explaining the role of the AA, which contributed to research, advocacy and lobbying about road issues. He outlined the challenges faced when it came to driver testing standards, and vehicle standards. He also set out the challenges faced when it came to vehicle crime and the enforcement of the road safety strategy. He said that the Department of Transport, despite having access to enviable recourses, still refused to implement some of the most obvious solutions which would assist in ensuring road safety. It was arguable that the crisis in the roads had been caused by the appointment of Ministers of Transport on the basis of their political stature, rather than their proven ability to enforce road safety.  Therefore AA supported, and had adopted as its own policy, a resolution taken by the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists Committee, which called for the establishment of a dedicated Road Safety Ministry. The AA further recommended that government should urgently set a target of a 10% reduction in South African road fatalities, and created a performance-based remuneration system in which the bonuses of key transport officials and senior managers in the Department and RTMC were linked directly to achievement of targets. No bonus should be awarded unless Statistics South Africa was able to produce credible road safety figures.

The presentation set out a number of statistics around crashes and safety standards. Mr Handfield-Jones urged that urgent interventions also needed to be made in order to secure the safety of bus passengers, including seatbelts in every seating position and improved roll over protection. Minimum standards should be set for vehicles, and the time frames within which fitment was mandatory should be shortened. The AA finally recommended the introduction of a new offence called “driving at an appropriate speed for conditions”, which would allow for the prosecution of drivers based on video evidence. Finally there was a recommendation that the content of the licence test be revised, and that other issues around licensing be addressed. Other issues contained in the written presentation, but which were not spoken to, related to suggestions around stop streets, yield signs and left turn-on-red, and traffic lights.

The Chairperson thanked the AA for the practical suggestion and said that they were very helpful. He noted that the statistics were of great concern and could be a cause for debate. However the statistics were read, it was clear that road fatalities were extremely high.  During a previous hearing with the Road Traffic Management Committee, Members had heard that there was an increase in the compliance with regulations such as the wearing of seatbelts, and adherence to speed limits. The AA however seemed to suggest that the compliance was actually worsening, and that government’s intervention was not working.
Mr Mashile asked whether the AA engaged with the RTMC or the Department.

Mr Tsholetsane said that the AA was using outdated figures, and the RTMC provided the AA with updated statistics. It was unclear whether the presenter was informed of the change in trends, as the RTMC had come to the Committee and made certain recommendations. However there needed to be more engagement with the AA in order to find new solutions.

Mr Gary Ronald, AA Spokesperson, noted that the AA had a good relationship with the RTMC and the Department. The AA would meet with the various stakeholders in order to establish a clear line of communication.

The Chairperson said that the issue of statistics was very complicated and there was no uniformity.

Mr Handfield-Jones replied that the presentation only provided statistics until 2006.

The Chairperson said that he was prepared to work through the proposals that were proposed by the AA

Mr Motsatsing replied that in terms of standards compliance, South Africa was in line with the ECE standards of the South African Bureau of Standards, and all the motor vehicles that were in South Africa complied with the standards.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on why there was confusion

Mr Handfield-Jones replied by noting that South Africa was a world leader in the manufacturing of vehicles and South Africa should be a world leader in regulating standards and putting standards together. There was a point where vehicles that came into the country were far ahead of the South African crash testing standards, and these vehicles had an unknown pedigree when it came to driver safety.

Mr Motsatsing replied that there would be complications in setting up own standards

The Chairperson asked whether South Africa was sufficiently equipped in testing cars from European countries

Mr Tsholetsane replied that the RTMC identified problems in models that had been imported.

The Chairperson noted the concerns that had been raised with the AA, and called for interaction between the Department and the RTMC. There were a number of issues that had been raised, such as the use of roll cages for buses and regulating driver’s license testing, and the Committee felt that there was an urgent need to address them.

Mr Tsholetsane noted that according to regulations, every bus that was registered in South Africa since 2006 had to have a roll over cage.

The Chairperson noted that there needed to be regular enforcement and checking in order to ensure that the drivers met the minimum requirement. The job of the AA was to represent the interests of the automobile drivers. It should be noted that a lot of the signage in the country was very pedestrian-unfriendly and the Committee noted the proposals that were put forward with respect to this matter.  Speed was a very significant factor and it was probable that the speed limits were too high. The AA seemed to be proposing a unilateral focus on speed, and clarity should be provided on the matter.

Mr Handfield-Jones replied that the issue of speed had always been linked to the conditions in which the speed was applied. The AA felt that the targeting of speed had focused rather on the location where an individual was most likely to be speeding, as opposed to focusing on the area in which an individual was most likely to be causing danger, even if traveling at the speed limit. The AA was not suggesting a total elimination of the concept of speed limits, speeding, but was suggesting that for these to be effective they needed to be applied in areas where speeding was most likely to cause a fatality. When it came to the cause of collisions, there needed to be a shift in focus from speed towards violations.

The Chairperson said that questions needed to be raised whether the current Cabinet configuration was adequate when it came to having a Ministry for Road Safety or Land Transport. The AA was encouraged to lobby this proposal and having a Minister with technical capacity would be ideal. However the AA should note that a Minister was important in playing a political role and making key political decisions, and so a Ministry would normally have a political head, and stakeholders within the Department with the technical capacity.
Mr Handfield-Jones noted the Chairperson’s comment and he said that it was in line with the AA’s proposal.

The meeting was adjourned


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: